107 SE Washington Street, Portland OR 97214; 503-954-3663; olympicprovisions.com
The door separating the Olympic Provisions restaurant-deli from the chamber in the back says it all: MEAT DEPT. (In all caps, if you didn't catch that.) The meat-curing facility is Oregon's first USDA-approved salumeria, which means salumist Elias Cairo makes charcuterie with a USDA inspector watching him for a whole 40 hours a week—sticking flashlights into the grinders and swab-testing the walls, spices, and floors, to ensure a health code-happy process.
Elias and his charcuterie-making crew, many of whom are alums of Portland favorite Clyde Common, are not only serving the chorizo, soppressata, and 10 other dry-aged meats at the comfy, faux leather banquette-filled restaurant, but working on a wholesale biz too. Hence the attentive USDA surveillance.
Elias has been dealing with as much pig as paperwork. "It's taken over my life for the last year plus." This is where his girlfriend stepped in. "Yeah, we knew if we were ever going to take a vacation again, we'd have to do it before this all started."
Where did Elias get all his meat cred? Before Portland he apprenticed for four years at Stump's Alpenrose in Switzerland. Hunters would drop off hundreds of animals and Cairo would process them at the slaughter facility. Just about every part turned into something edible: sausages, pates, and other traditional European-style cured meats.
But of the entire meat menu at Olympic Provisions, Elias gets the happiest look on his face when he talks about the lukanika. "It's my Greek father's recipe," he said, reminiscing on his younger Elias days. His father was actually a home butcher himself and used to make the orange-zesty dry salami from scratch. "We never really went anywhere without a chunk of salami, cheese, and bread." (Yeah, that's a good policy to have.)
For anyone in Portland who likes meat: Elias is developing charcuterie classes that will be offered to the public. You can learn how to cure meats, make sausage and salami, and even butcher whole animals. Contact 503-954-3663 or [email protected] for more info.